Friday, 18 November 2011

Running to keep it up

‘Frustrated?’ he says.

‘Always,’ I say.

‘Come on then, start a fight,’ he says. And I try to beat the sh*t out of him.

I have recently become a convert to boxing. It never fails to exhaust me, so it surely must burn some calories, and it never fails to satisfy either.

If I want to process things I like to walk. If I want to forget things, I run. I love running, because I love the comfort of its rhythm, but it doesn’t allow me to think - my head seems to work slower the faster that my legs move. If I want to vent, then boxing is the best therapy. If I’m bursting with happiness, then trampolining gives me an even greater high.

There was a moment after I’d had the children when I looked at myself naked in the mirror and wondered who was staring back. That’s not my body. Where have my boobs gone? Where has my waist gone? Bloody hell, where is my arse going? I knew I needed to get a grip before gravity did, so I started commando training at the Rugby Club under the tutelage of the rather wonderful Simon Weatherall. Without whom, I wouldn’t know a hook from an uppercut. Without whom, exercise would be something other people did.

As well as training the odd world championship boxer, and running GetFit121, Simon is on a one-man mission to give everyone a personal trainer, which is why he launched the free Oobafit website and app earlier this year. Not only does it give you a tailor-made exercise plan, but it will also give you a personal nutrition plan, and at a click Tesco will deliver everything you need for the week direct to your door.

This week’s blogging activity has proven extremely bad for my state of health. Firstly because I can only blog while eating chocolate. And secondly because half an hour spent blogging is half an hour not spent running.

Alas I find myself growing in direct proportion with this blog. So here, thankfully, endeth the last post of the week.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scary fairies and evil angels

The Impster is employed in the task of colouring in her Christmas cards (better early than never), while I am simultaneously cooking the tea and taking a work call.

‘Mummy,’ she hisses in her loudest whisper, ‘I’m making the angels all wicked and evil.’

I enlarge my eyes in the attempt to communicate that perhaps this output will not be suitable for sending to Great Auntie Jean or her friends from Sunday School:

Over tea we discuss the semiotics of colour, and the tradition of angels taking a godlier complexion. ‘But I just love everything that’s scary,’ she says.

I know. I’m still getting over the horror of the ‘scary Disney princess’ birthday invites, with the appearance of each card more terrifying than the last. ‘Are you quite sure that Sleeping Beauty wouldn’t look prettier in pink?’ I asked. ‘No, she looks really wicked in black and green,’ came the reply. And indeed she did.

Nor has her poor friend Georgina recovered yet from the shock of the face painting episode at a fairy party event they attended. There were butterflies and flowers and pussy cats and all manner of delights on display, but as you see, the Impster’s brief to her make-up artist was quite clear: ‘I want to be a scary fairy please.’

So when Halloween arrived this year, the Impster was in her element. She had been counting down the days since April, and no child’s face could have been more enraptured by the appearance of the Halloween aisle at Sainsbury’s in early September. But to her eternal envy, I was the one who had been invited to a Halloween party that weekend, which required full fancy dress. Wicked outfits are something of an Impster speciality, and no personal shopper could have bettered her efforts that afternoon in the search for my costume.

Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Halloween has become sexy these days (though even I could not have anticipated the quantity of latex on display that night, thanks to the wide-ranging stock of a designer of bondage gear who happened to be one of our party.)

So I explained to the Impster what we were after – red fishnet tights, red hotpants, devil horns etc – and she leapt upon the task with alacrity, cross-questioning each and every shopkeeper in Winchester about whether they stocked said items. ‘My mummy’s going to a party tonight and she’s going as a really scary Devil,’ she told them, dramatising just enough to make them take a step back.

Her attention to detail was quite astounding: she thought a big scary ring would look good (it did), and what about scary purple glowing eyeshadow (good call), and had I thought about my nail varnish (no I hadn’t, but again...). This was the final result:

(The red hotpants had to be exchanged for the leather skirt, mainly because I felt the need to curtail the Impster’s retail enquiries, but also because K remembered just in time that the Devil wears Prada.)

But why am I telling you all this so long after the event? Well today I attended a ‘stay and play’ session at the Impster’s school - a very ardent Church school as it happens. The idea being for parents to get an insight into the school, though I strongly suspect the reverse is true.

Apparently the children had been asked after half term to draw a picture of what they had done over the holiday. Apparently the Impster drew a picture of our house, with me at the door in full Devil regalia, looking ‘very wicked indeed’.

I did not see that picture. Apparently it has been taken into the care of the Headmaster. I await a call from the child psychologist. Or a summons to the Headmaster’s office...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Crap restaurants

When we were in Cornwall on holiday in August we made a last minute booking at The Driftwood restaurant. I went with low expectations and was highly delighted. So much so that when we got back and discovered that our friends had booked to go, I built it up to such heights in my enthusiasm that they were inevitably disappointed. If they keep a list of crap restaurants The Driftwood is at the top. (Apparently the food is too wanky.)

And yet it was these self same friends who had enthused to us about 36 On The Quay and you can read about that unfortunate experience here.

We all know that the best dining experiences are the ones where you go along with poor to reasonable expectations, only to discover that the food is divine. And there is nothing more guaranteed to disappoint than having your expectations raised and dashed.

Choosing a restaurant might be a personal thing, but there are some things, like not being offered tap water as an option, or having the discretionary 15% service charge already added to your bill, or having to flag down inattentive waiters to place an order, that deserve a universal crapness accreditation.

Well last Friday we went to Nobu London (admittedly about 14 years too late) because I love Japanese food. I could bore you for hours about the virtues of Tosa (King Street, W6) or Mai Food (Kenway Rd, SW5), or Roka (Charlotte Street, W1), or Tokiya (Battersea Rise, SW11) or the fabulous Japan Centre (Regent Street, SW1). I’d never heard a bad word said about Nobu, so what could there possibly be to dislike?

As soon as we walked through the door we could have been anywhere in the world. When I’m in London I want Londonish places (or at least Japanese), but this was as unique as a Starbucks. We were squeezed onto a table far too close to a party of American business men, and it felt as if nearly everyone there was dining on expenses. I presume this was probably the case given the eye-watering prices (the infamous black cod in miso will set you back £50 by the time they’ve automatically added on 15% service). It was certainly not the place where you expect to see the fattest man you’ve ever seen in your life. How is such girth possible on a raw fish diet? At Nobu it would surely cost him somewhere in the region of £24,000 to maintain his day’s calorie intake.

Nobu is greatly proud of its fusion approach – Peruvian Japanese – so we had high expectations of piranha sashimi and the like. But in reality it means that everything just has a tiny bit of chilli in it and they can put chocolate on their pudding menu.

There is an upside though. Since very little is actually cooked, they can turn your table in just over an hour, so you can beat a hasty retreat.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Men from whom I would not recoil

Well I promised you juice and juice you shall have, but just in case my father’s eyes are already wide with alarm, then I shall take the precaution of subtitling this post ‘How to Stay Happily Married’.

It was our wedding anniversary on Friday - Remembrance Day, lest we forget.

Fidelity, being the highly prized moral quality that it is, seems to have got the better of us both. Six years after exchanging our vows we staggered along Regent Street, a bit wiggly from too many cocktails, reminiscing about how we might have lost our fidelity along the way, if only we could have been properly tempted. I cross-question K on the women from whom he has recoiled. ‘Too litigious.’ ‘Too horsey.’ ‘Too dull.’ ‘Too...not you.’

What virtue, I ask, in lack of opportunity? For as the existentialists would have it, morality lies only in choice. After all, is it not self-evident that:

Fidelity = opportunity x self-restraint

(Doubtless my father will correct my maths homework if it’s gone a bit wobbly.)

After six years of marriage I think we can be perfectly honest about this whole equation. There's a head thing, and there's a heart thing, and then there's a groin thing...

About three weeks ago I fell deeply in lust with a certain wine merchant. He shall remain nameless, but knows who he is on the account of my ordering three hundred quid’s worth of wine from him the next day. Alas, mine was not the only groin stirred that night. My friend E reports feeling equally unusual, and although our husbands still roll their eyes at the sound of his name, we can’t help but believe that they must at least have sympathy with our plight. Possibly a slight affection for him too, if truth be known, on account of his Ch√Ęteau Lamothe Cissac, Cru Bourgeois 2005. Wares like that can win you a head, a heart and a groin.

Sadly he slipped neither of us a hastily scrawled note with details of an assignation. And neither of us recollects being ravished over a late night glass of Botrytis Semillion. But let us imagine for one idle moment that this had been the case....

Sorry, where was I?

... let us imagine that had been the case. How might a respectable married woman have found salvation in such temptation? Because if we are to have learnt the lessons of a certain Emma Bovary, not to mention Anna Karenina, we know these things do not end well.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to foresee that in a couple of weeks, the whole affair would have become the biggest, time-wasting, heartbreaking, pain-in-the-arse imaginable. Or more worrisome still, had the relationship run its own six year course, who is to say that another delectable wine merchant wouldn’t have eventually appeared on the scene, requiring us to run yet another weary lap on the course of true love.

To avoid such exhaustion, we must acknowledge the truth of how these things begin. Not in a premeditated fluttering of the eyelashes, nor in the heat of grand passion with an irresistible wine merchant. No. It happens in a flicker of a moment that passes so quickly you don’t catch it, yet it writes itself gently and imperceptibly into your heart. Where it lies unread, until sometime later another such moment arises and it feels warmly familiar. And then the trouble begins...

We may have made the ultimate choice six years ago, but it took us eight years to make it. I liked the idea of living in sin, of waking each day knowing ‘I choose you.’ It was high moral ground. And it seems to me that this is the fundamental problem with marriage – it gives us a sense of having chosen, rather than of choosing; a past tense instead of a present tense.

So we should look upon opportunity as our friend. For it is our chance to say again ‘I choose you’ and to hear the resounding echo ‘I chose you:’

I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you I choose you I chose you...

...all the way into the future.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The liberal vegetarian

Oh dear, have I really not posted since August? Then like it or not, I shall give you post a day for the rest of this week, and hereby I pledge you my troth. Time dictates they will be written breathlessly, and pithily (dearest G, who will probably be the only one who reads them, tells me I am better when I’m pithy). So I shall give you pith today and juice tomorrow, and hopefully will draw the line before revealing too much flesh and skin.

Let me take you all the way back to August and our dining room table where we are having tea. The Boo has just reached across the table and has swiped all the ham from the Impster’s plate. Now he is greedily shovelling it into his mouth with obvious haste and pleasure. ‘Naughty!’ I exclaim in my angry mummy voice, trying to get the reprimand in quickly before the first blow is struck, ‘That’s not your ham and you shouldn’t steal it.’

‘Don’t worry mummy, he can have it,’ says the Impster, and with a slightly superior tone declares, ‘I’m a vegetarian now, so I don’t eat meat.’

‘What? Why? Since when?’

‘I don’t eat any animals. Just like the twins don’t eat animals. I need a special vegetarian option.’

Of course - the bloody twins at nursery. Well, she’s only four, and if I ignore it, perhaps it will go away. Admittedly though, I had not expected her to enter a vegetarian phase for another ten years.

‘Presumably you eat fish?’ I ask as casually as possible.

‘No fish. Or lamb, or chicken, or duck. Or anything that’s an animal.’

Ah ha! Perhaps this only applies to meat that is clearly named after its origins. ‘What about pork?’ I enquire.

‘Pork is from pigs,’ she says, ‘I don’t eat pigs and I don’t eat lambs or anything else that is roasted on a spit.’

Of course – bloody K. Back from a party at the weekend, elaborately regaling us with tales of Patch’s giant spit roast. Last year a whole pig. This year a whole sheep.

‘No surely not,’ says the mighty carnivore when I later hold him responsible for her ethical stance. ‘She was very interested, especially in the photos.’

Yes, dear reader, this is what she saw. K and Patch rotating the impaled beast like a scene from Lord of the Flies.

These phases pass, but not that quickly with the Impster. I recall only too well her purple phase, in which she would dress in no other colour for a whole 15 months. She has nothing if not resolution.

We go to a friend’s for Sunday roast, and she politely but firmly refuses the chicken, on the grounds of vegetarianism. ‘It’s a vegetarian chicken,’ explains our host. But the Impster is not to be won over.

And so the weeks go by, until one day towards the end of September I have the good fortune to be cooking sausages and make the helpful discovery that processed meat is so far from its animal origins that she hasn’t worked out it is meat at all. I pass this useful tip onto friends and family trying to feed her.

October dawns, and I arrive home from the deli with pastrami. The Impster would like to sample it. ‘What is pastrami?’ she enquires having eaten a plate full.

I take the brutal approach. ‘Meat. From a cow.’

‘Oh. Well I’m a vegetarian except for pastrami.’

She has done extremism. Now she is moving onto her liberal phase. As long as it comes from an expensive deli, it can be accommodated. Chorizo, salami, prosciutto, pastrami. All these can be tolerated. I pass this useful tip onto friends and family who take grateful note.

But the end of the month sees the Boo tipping my venison sausage casserole on his head, and the Impster refusing to eat it on ethical grounds. Perhaps it was the word venison that alerted her to the fact that not all sausages are vegetarian. But she can’t help loving food and her resolve is clearly wavering.

Tonight I cook sausage and mash. I can see her deliberating. ‘They’re only 50% pork,’ I lie. ‘Why don’t you just eat half?’ And she does.